Announcement Overview

The Ontario government is investing over $3 million to support families of first responders and public safety personnel who are killed in the line of duty or have died by suicide. The funding will provide free rapid bereavement counselling for up to two years following the death of a loved one.

“First responders and public safety personnel put their lives on the line for the safety of Ontario every single day,” said Solicitor General Michael Kerzner. “That is why our government is ensuring that families who experience the loss of a loved one can access critical mental health support when they need it most. This investment is a testament to our government’s dedication to protecting everyone who helps keep our province safe.”

The Ontario Immediate Family Wellness Program will provide compassionate assistance for grieving families of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, ambulance communications officers and adult provincial correctional services employees.

“Ontario is proud to be home to world-class first responders who go above and beyond every day, sometimes putting their lives on the line to provide safety, care and support in communities across the province,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Through our government’s investment in this new program, we are ensuring that loved ones of fallen paramedics, and all first responders, have access to the compassionate supports they need to begin their journey towards healing.”

Family members can access mental health services such as crisis support, counselling and therapy by phone or online. These services are being delivered through a three-step care model that includes:

  • Professionals who provide crisis and care planning 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Comprehensive mental health services, including rapid access to counselling
  • Proactive care that supports families regardless of location or services required

Quick Facts

  • Eligible family members include partners, parents, siblings, and children.
  • The Family Wellness Program aligns with recommendations made in Staying Visible, Staying Connected, For Life.
  • The Ontario government has invested over $45 million to support organizations and programs that provide public safety personnel with access to high-quality and specialized mental health services.
  • Ontario is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to fill gaps in mental health and addiction care, create new services and expand programs through Roadmap to Wellness.
  • As part of Budget 2024, Building a Better Ontario, the government is building on its work through the Roadmap by investing an additional $396 million over three years to improve access and expand existing mental health and addiction services and programs.
  • Ontario has invested more than $10.5 million in one-time capital funding to support first responders affected by work-related stress or trauma, including post-traumatic stress injury. The services are being offered by the First Responder Post-Traumatic Stress Injury Rehabilitation Treatment and Assessment Centre at Runnymede Health Centre in Toronto.

Quotes

“Families of our first responders and public safety personnel face unique mental health and addictions challenges when coping with the death of a loved one in the line of duty. The new Ontario Immediate Family Wellness Program will provide reliable services to families of our frontline heroes who lost their lives while on duty or by suicide. This program aligns with our Roadmap to Wellness plan which is treating mental health with the seriousness it deserves and building a world-class mental health and addictions system.”

– Michael Tibollo
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions


“On behalf of SOLE (Survivors of Law Enforcement) we wish to thank the Government of Ontario for acknowledging the important work that all peace officers do every day in our province. This government’s unwavering commitment to the well being of police officers and all first responders as well as their families is the right thing to do and paramount in our healing journey. We appreciate this government’s recognition of the ultimate sacrifices our loved ones have made while keeping our communities safe.”

– Nancy MacDonald
President, Survivors of Law Enforcement


“The trauma and grief from a line of duty death or a suicide of one of our members is far reaching. In dealing with the loved ones left behind, we often learn of people deeply impacted who are not immediate family, many who are not covered under traditional benefit plans for professional services. We welcome the creation of a program to help the people closest to our members and thank the Ontario government for the additional support to help all loved ones of our members to grieve and heal from unspeakable tragedies.”

– John Cerasuolo
President, Ontario Provincial Police Association


“First responders are routinely exposed to disasters and emergencies that often leave an imprint. Firefighters struggle with mental illness and suicide rates at levels that are much higher than what is found in the general population. It is estimated that suicide is three times more likely to happen in a fire department than a line of duty death. In the wake of a line of duty death or suicide, the family and friends of the victim often experience great loss and grief, with little support or counselling. We applaud this government for not only investing in firefighter health and safety, but for taking the necessary steps to care for the ones left behind when tragedy strikes.”

– Greg Horton
President, Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association


“I am deeply moved by the Ontario government’s support to address the mental health challenges that affect the families of our fallen public safety heroes. This funding represents a pledge to the journey of healing and well-being of the families that have already sacrificed so much. This support acknowledges the unique burdens our families bear and underscores our collective commitment to their well-being as they navigate this difficult journey. Together, we’re providing unwavering support and commitment that will echo through our organizations for future generations of first responders.”

– Rocco Volpe
Acting Fire Chief, Central York Fire Services


“Families matter. They need our support and care when a paramedic or any first responder loses their life in the line of duty or have died by suicide. It is the least we can do as a community dependant on our first responders to service us in our worst time of need. The OAPC applauds the Ford government’s commitment to families.”

– Michael Sanderson
President, Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs


“We often thank our members for their dedication and service, for their bravery and strength. But we often forget to acknowledge their families. Husbands, wives, partners, children, parents, they all make sacrifices, when a loved one becomes a police officer. Thanks to this investment from the Ford government, our police families will get the support they deserve, having made the ultimate sacrifice.”

– Jon Reid
President, Toronto Police Association


“The families of firefighters take on a heavy burden without ever having to see a fire or respond to an emergency. The Ontario Immediate Family Wellness Program demonstrates a commitment to supporting these families to address the mental health challenges they may be facing.”

– Jon Pegg
Fire Marshal of Ontario


“Public safety and emergency service workers serve the residents and visitors of Ontario around the clock in some of the most challenging and dangerous conditions imaginable. When these workers are killed in the line of duty, or when they die by suicide, it creates great loss for their families and coworkers. The delivery of new services for the families of public safety heroes who were killed in the line of duty or have died by suicide is an admirable initiative by this government, one that is applauded by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC).”

– Rob Grimwood
President, Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs


“Police personnel rely on the support of their families as they take on the difficult work of protecting our communities. When a member dies in the line of duty or because of the line of duty, we must make sure the mental health needs of those left behind are met with compassion and care. The Police Association of Ontario is grateful to the Government of Ontario for recognizing the sacrifices made by these families and for making support available.”

– Mark Baxter
Police Association of Ontario

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